Permanent injunction bars Direct Response Advertising Inc., The Amazing Kreskin, and Lee Moorhead from sending misleading mailings to Iowans
DES MOINES – A New York City-based direct marketing company and its owners will stop sending misleading solicitations to Iowans from supposed psychics and mind readers, through a court-approved settlement with Attorney General Tom Miller.
The consent judgment, entered today by Polk County District Court Judge Michael D. Huppert, orders New York City-based Direct Response Advertising Inc., and its owners, David Vogel and Michael Geisinger, to cease soliciting Iowans for psychic and mentalist services.
The consent judgment also names two celebrities and supposed mind readers featured in the company’s mailings, including purported “psychic and mystic” Lee Moorhead, and George Joseph Kresge, aka “The Amazing Kreskin,” the “world’s foremost mentalist.”
“This settlement ends these efforts to cheat Iowa’s most vulnerable people,” Miller said. “The letters were shamelessly predatory and manipulative, variously promising riches, protection from ill-health, and even personal friendship to each recipient – all to get the victim to send money.”
In addition to prohibiting misleading mailings to Iowans, the court order requires refunds of more than $13,000 to approximately 500 Iowans, and requires the defendants to pay $50,000 for future enforcement of Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act. The injunction also bars the defendants from using or sharing their lists of Iowa victims, most of whom were elderly.
The investigation began when the Consumer Protection Division received copies of Kreskin and Moorhead solicitation letters from Iowans who were concerned that they prey upon the elderly.
According to Miller, the damage done by similar mailings became apparent last year, when investigators learned of a 91-year-old eastern Iowa widow who had almost gone broke sending checks in response to similarly deceptive mailings. Every letter offered the elderly woman help with her financial and health challenges – for a fee.
In announcing his lawsuit last September, Miller highlighted a solicitation letter from Moorhead, who claims she is “the world’s preeminent psychic.” The highly-personalized letter lied to its elderly recipients by claiming a special interest in the recipient, and promised to use Moorhead’s supposed powers on the victim’s behalf, all for an upfront fee.
“Direct Response Advertising then sold victims’ names to other marketers eager to wring more money out of them. In effect, it re-victimized each victim,” said Miller. “Today’s judgment also bars that cynical practice.”
According to Miller, Kreskin’s mailings to elderly Iowans were similarly fraudulent. In one mailing, Kreskin claims special insight into the personal circumstances of each person who receives the mass mailing, and promises “enrichment” for all – at least, all who send a check.
“Kreskin’s mailings boasted of his appearances on Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, to enhance his credibility and pry more money from his victims,” Miller said. “Although these scam mailings included a disclaimer that they were for ‘entertainment purposes only,’ the disclaimer was in the tiniest of print – hard for anyone to make out, but especially for persons whose vision might be compromised by advanced age.”
The consent judgment acknowledges that the defendants deny wrongdoing, and includes their commitment to cooperate with the Consumer Protection Division in any future efforts to investigate and halt consumer frauds of the kind they inflicted upon elderly Iowans.
Miller cautions Iowans to be wary of personalized mailings from strangers claiming they want to help, while asking for money. In particular, Miller urges caregivers of older Iowans to look out for predatory mailing or telemarketing campaigns making too-good-to-be-true promises.
“Because lists of susceptible individuals get bought and sold, a person who gets taken once may be targeted again and again,” Miller warned. “The best protection is an abundance of caution, to keep from ever ending up on a victim’s list.”
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside the Des Moines area, toll free, at 888-777-4590.